Tesco has caved in to pressure from farmers and will allow the use of GM feed by its poultry producers, following the lead of Asda and Morrisons.
In recent weeks, UK poultry and egg suppliers had highlighted the increasing difficulty in guaranteeing the feed they used was entirely GM free, Tim Smith, Tesco group technical director and former CEO of the Food Standards Agency, said in a statement issued last night.
With 80% of the world’s soya now genetically modified, less non-GM soya was being produced and there wasn’t enough non-GM feed available, he added. Tesco was also concerned over potential contamination of non-GM crops by GM feed. “The new DNA testing regime we have put in place has identified that the risk of finding GM material in non-GM feed is increasing.”
Allowing the use of GM feed did not mean that poultry and eggs sold by Tesco would be genetically modified in any way, Smith said. “The FSA is clear that DNA from modified soya is not present in the meat of animals fed on it, not in animal products such as eggs or milk. Genetic modification affects only the crop used in the feed.”
“The FSA is clear that DNA from modified soya is not present in the meat of animals fed on it, not in animal products such as eggs or milk. Genetic modification affects only the crop used in the feed.”
Tim Smith, Tesco
Tesco sought safety in numbers by highlighting it is not the first UK supermarket to change policy and, in an unusual move, specifically named those competitors who had already done so. “Asda and Morrisons already allow GM feed for poultry products, and our suppliers also work with other UK supermarkets.”
Anti-GM campaigners have criticised Tesco’s decision. GM Freeze claimed Tesco had “badly let down” its customers in changing policy on poultry feed. “For the last decade or more they could have invested money in securing non-GM soya supplies as Carrefour have done in France but instead they have ignored their customers’ concern,” said a spokesman.
GM Freeze challenged several statements made by Tesco, including its assertion that modified soya does not make its way into the meat of animals fed on it.
Organically raised animals will continue to be fed non-GM feed, Tesco said, allowing its shoppers the choice of buying meat from poultry not fed on GM feed.
The Co-Operative Group said today that it could no longer guarantee that its own-brand chicken and turkey would be fed non-GM feed.
Meanwhile, a poll conducted for The Grocer has revealed that less than 4% of people trusted retailers to tell the truth about the use of GM technology.
The Grocer did not receive immediate responses from Sainsbury’s or Waitrose as to whether they intended to change their policies on GM feed.